Our project sets out to overcome prejudice and misunderstanding between Bulgarians, Turks and Roma living in the small town of Kuklen (South Bulgaria). Children will participate together in a schedule of creative workshops and activities, to express themselves, to learn new skills and to find out more about each others' culture. Through this experience they will build links with each other, develop new skills and discover that together they are capable of more.
Kuklen, South Bulgaria, population 6000
Traditionally there is tension, discrimination and misunderstanding between different ethnic groups in Bulgaria; the latest Council of Europe report showed that racist and intolerant hate speech is escalating in political discource, in the media and on the internet, especially towards Turks, Roma, muslims and foreigners. Bulgarian Turks and Roma are also more likely to face poverty and less likely to finish their education than their Bulgarian counterparts.
Kuklen is unusual in Bulgaria because it has a high population of three ethnic groups - Bulgarians, Bulgarian Turks and Roma. Additionally, in such a small town (population of 6000) there is a mosque, a Catholic Church and Orthodox church. So within this small town the problems affecting Bulgaria as a whole are reflected.
Our aim is to organise a schedule of creative workshops and activities that bring together children and teenagers from all three of the ethnic groups living in Kuklen. Through doing these creative activities, they can build connections with each other, and through formal activities and informal network, come to an understanding of the similarities and differences between them.
In addition, it is our hope that a combination of providing vocational training as part of the programme, as well as mixing children from different backgrounds, will help to increase the skills and aspirations of some of the teenagers, to show them that education and career paths are available for them, too.
We have specifically chosen creative activities to ensure that all children and teenagers can participate in our activities. Bulgaria's latest Integration Strategy shows that just 9,5% of Roma complete secondary education, compared to 34,6% of Bulgarian Turks and 77,9% of ethnic Bulgarians. 21,9% of the Roma population are illiterate / never went to school.
In this context, we believe that organising structured discussions and debate in a classroom environment would discourage a significant percentage of the young people who already feel excluded from participation. We believe that through doing creative and practical activities like art, dancing and hairdressing, the young people will more easily come to a shared understanding of their similarities and their differences.
.We will organise:
- Painting lessons twice per week
- Knitting lessons twice per week
- Hairdressing lessons twice per week
- Dance classes twice per week
Each activity will be open to 15-20 young people and we will encourage them to find an activity that really interests them and to attend regularly, to develop their skills and make new friendships.
In addition, in partnership with the NGO Ela I Ti we will encourage the young people to design games for people who are different to them, such as people with disabilities, elderly people. They will be encouraged again to think about people who are different from them, what difficulties they face, and how to adapt the game to make it more attractive to them.
If the idea is selected, we hope that:
- The children and young people will have developed new skills, some of which they will be able to use practically for their own families and perhaps also to make an income in the future.
- The children and young people will be more empathetic and compassionate towards people from other ethnic groups, as well as other people in different situations to them.
- Children and young people from different ethnic groups will have built up genuine friendships that last beyond the lifetime of this project.
- Receiving arts education gives the young people confidence, and improved academic and emotional outcomes.
- Through engaging with the children, other family members will also have the opportunity to consider their own prejudices and discrimination.
Democracy has at its heart the idea of equality - that everyone's vote is equal. In Bulgaria all citizens, irrespective of their ethnic origin, religion and language, have the right to partake in decision-making processes,
Unfortunately, for many people in Bulgaria, and particularly for those from minority groups, they are given indirect messages from an early age that they are not equal and do not have the right to participate - for example in school or employment. By creating an inclusive environment where all are welcome and diversity is actively encouraged, we hope that in the future the young people will have more confidence to participate in all aspects of society including democratic processes, and to respect the decisions and opinions of others, even if they are different.
As part of Caritas Sofia's Code of Ethics, we are committed to advocating on behalf of the most vulnerable and marginalised in order to bear witness to, and address, the issues that they face and the structural causes of poverty and injustice.
We are passionate about reducing intolerance and increasing equality and opportunities for all young people in Bulgaria. Our work in Kuklen over the past 20 years has been very successful to support young people at risk of dropping out of school, but we want to do more to break down barriers between different people in the community, and to increase the aspirations of those where society directly or indirectly tells them that their opportunities are limited.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Staff salaries - 6800 EUR
Staff travel, accommodation and training - 2700 EUR
One-off equipment purchases (hairdressing and art) - 3500
Monthly materials and products - 6400 EUR
Hall hire - 1250 EUR
Specialist trainers - 4500 EUR
Printing and design costs - 1500 EUR
Celebratory events - 1000 EUR
Administrative and overhead costs - 2750 EUR